First Example of In-App Purchasing Does Not Bode Well

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Everyone is so focused on finding apps that support push notification that they probably haven’t looked too hard for apps that take advantage of other iPhone OS 3.0-specific features. For example, Gokivo is the first app to officially make use of in-app purchases.

Unfortunately, it also appears to be the first to use the new feature to bilk you with a ridiculous payment scheme. The app is being billed as the first to offer turn-by-turn directions that make use of the iPhone’s built-in GPS. And at only $1, it may seem like a steal.

But $1 only gets a relatively useless map and Yahoo local search app. To enable turn-by-turn navigation, you’ll have to make use of Apple’s nifty new in-app purchasing system to buy a subscription. Which, until recently, wasn’t indicated anywhere on the app’s description page, so it came as a nasty surprise to people who’d already bought and paid for what they thought was a navigation app.

Before they updated the app description, it was when you actually went to use turn-by-turn that the service would cost you an additional fee. And what a fee it was. $1 would get you one minute, or $3 for 10, or $10 for a monthly pass. At those prices, the appeal of having turn-by-turn on the iPhone is lost for me, since I can get a standalone Garmin for a one-time fee and not pay a dime in monthly subscription fees.

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Not only is the price exorbitant, but the service itself actually doesn’t even work that well, according to at least one source. iLounge’s Jeremy Horwitz actually forked over some cash to test out the turn-by-turn features, and ended up in some dead-end street nowhere near the Apple retail store he was trying to get to.

It isn’t all bad, though, according to Horwitz. Nice features include voice-over directions; live, automatically updating traffic information; and a save function that allows you to resume your trip if you have to leave the app to take a call, check email, etc.

I just can’t get past the price for the service. I suppose as an early entrant, the folks behind Gokivo can be expected to try to grab some of that early adopter green that’s passed around so freely, but given their dismal rating in the app store, and the negative press this is generating for them, it can’t possibly be working out to be a profitable arrangement for them. Let’s just hope it stands as an object lesson instead of a sign of things to come.

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